Tool Time: White Eraser (Your New Best Friend)

Best Tools for Paper Crafters- White Eraser | VanillaArts.com

Frustration takes the fun out of coloring!

And I suspect that much of the irritation we face during our crafting sessions is self imposed due to faulty or inappropriate tools and supplies.

Think about it- what's more fun? Going out for a Sunday drive in a Lamborghini or in an '87 Yugo with one flat tire?

Please don't tell me you're a Yugo fan...

The thing is, you don't really have to have the sports car to enjoy a pleasant drive. You can have quite an enjoyable time in many makes/models of car. But that trip in the Yugo is going to cause more than a few gray hairs before the adventure even starts. Sure, a 3 wheeled hatchback might make for awesome yard decor but it's not exactly road ready material.

When you grab the wrong tool for a crafting job, it's like choosing the Yugo over the Lamborghini, every single time.

Let's make our lives a little easier (and a little more enjoyable) by looking at good tools. Some will be expensive, others will be dirt cheap. The point is that they work well and will improve your coloring sessions.

First up: Your new best friend- the white PVC eraser

White PVC Erasers are wonderful | VanillaArts.com

Forget about odes to Grecian urns, if I was even remotely poetical, I'd write an ode to white erasers. Whether in brick, stick, or pencil top form, Vinyl erasers are a modern miracle.

Even if you don't draw, you will use this eraser! When you measure, draw straight lines with a ruler, and especially when you're penciling in a detail to color later, this is the tool for you. It's also essential for colored pencil coloring.

It's a great all around eraser. I'll cover other erasers in future Tool Time articles but if you're only going to purchase one eraser, this is definitely the kind to get!

Alternate Names-

PVC, Vinyl, Polymer, Poly, Plastic, Non-Abrasive, and Technical. These are all different descriptors for roughly the same thing.

By the way, my daughter has about 3,000 little novelty erasers shaped like hamburgers and strange Japanese hamsters. While these may be vinyl and some are even white, they are not what I'm talking about here.

Brands- 

Staedtler, Pentel, Tombow, Campus, Lyra, Faber-Castell, Nayana... these are just the top names, there are tons more. They're all slightly different and some work better than others, but I've not encountered a white polymer eraser that didn't do a good - great job of erasing basic work marks.

Defining Features-

This is a soft plastic, almost rubbery eraser which contains no abrasive pumice or grit. It feels smooth and buttery when rubbed against paper and it leaves a minimal amount of debris.

Best used on-

Excellent for graphite (pencil lead) in any hardness. Moderately effective on waxy colored pencil and firm chalk pencils. Excellent for finger and hand smudges that collect on the borders of your work.

If I need to erase something, this is the first eraser I try because it's gentle. I may end up moving to something more abrasive for stubborn marks, but I always begin the process with my white PVC eraser.

Styles-

For years PVC erasers came in brick style only, usually with a cardboard sleeve which keeps large bricks from cracking.  For greater control, try a stick version. White vinyl erasers are pretty standard on top quality technical pencils but I've also seen them on the disposable PaperMate level mechanical pencils. Artist-grade electric erasers use PVC erasers. The most recent development has been a micro sized PVC eraser in pen form (it looks like a click-pen but has a tiny eraser instead).

Note: there are also very similar PVC-Free white erasers on the market. For the record, that's the only white eraser that I've ever hated. It was oddly soft and it developed small cracks on the first use. I quit using it when large chunks started coming off, about 2-3 weeks into daily use.

Price Range-

Very inexpensive. Small bricks and sticks are often in found value multipacks for under $1 per eraser.

Available at-

Very widely available. Art stores, craft stores, office supply stores, and in the office supply area of many big-box retail chain stores. Online at numerous retailers.

Here's why you need to ditch the pink eraser:

PVC vs Pink Erasers | VanillaArts.com

Both Samples are #2 Ticonderoga pencil cross hatching, firm pressure on vellum surface Bristol Board.

The left has been erased by a fresh Pentel "Clic Eraser" #ZE22 PVC eraser (the purple one shown above)

The right is erased using the same Ticonderoga #2's factory installed pink eraser. Eraser is fresh, not hardened, and first time used.

Here's the deal with white erasers, not only do they erase pencil marks better than the old-school style pink eraser but because they're non-abrasive, they leave the paper fibers relatively intact.

Don't get me wrong, EVERY eraser on the market will damage your paper to a certain extent but the less damage you cause with each erasure, the better. If you're someone who is heavy handed or you go back and erase your marks a lot, you most likely have noticed damage zones on your paper. These are areas where the Copic marker doesn't absorb properly or where Prismacolor just won't stick. Using a PVC eraser will help to limit the number and severity of your damage zones.

PVC erasers definitely leave a slight sheen on the paper surface but that's nothing compared to the pink smudge left behind by the pink eraser. That pink residue won't scrape off, it's embedded into the paper and is at some angles, a very noticeable discoloration.

Brand Differences-

I'm not terribly picky about my white eraser brand. Having said that, it should be clear that I'm not buying them at the dollar store. I tend to pick them up as impulse purchases at the art store, so I'm usually purchasing an established name brand in the mid-range price.

One thing I have noticed however is that some leave more carnage behind than others.

By carnage, I mean the funky residue that you have to sweep away.

Staedtler Plastic Grand Eraser | VanillaArts.com
Pentel Hi-Polymer PVC Eraser | VanillaArts.com

Staedtler's erasers leave the usual debris behind. The Pentel Hi-Polymer brand always forms just a few, long threads of residue. So Pentel leaves your desk area a little cleaner.

I had heard about Moo erasers from Nayana Co. when I was researching what to use for hand-carved stamps from erasers. So I picked up a two pack; they were very inexpensive.

Not only does Moo leave A LOT of carnage all over your paper, but when you touch the eraser with your fingers, you can rub even more off. It's not that it's gritty, dry, or funky feeling- it just constantly sheds. So while Moo works fine, I've decided not to buy that brand again because I think excessive shedding = a shorter life span for the eraser.

Moo PVC Eraser | VanillaArts.com
Mod Podge brush for sweeping away debris | VanillaArts.com

And by the way, this is what I use to sweep away the eraser carnage:

It's a 2.5" soft brush made by Mod Podge. It's supposed to be used as an applicator but it's so soft and fuzzy that it's perfect for brushing aside eraser residue or the dust generated by Prismacolor pencils.

I wish it had a hole in it so that I could hang it up, but other than that, I love this little guy.

Do not use your hand to sweep debris aside. You'll either transfer body oil to the paper or you'll accidentally drag the debris hard enough to leave a skid mark. If you don't have a brush, try to blow it away. The key is to be gentle!

And yes, I did have a really nice professional, expensive drafting brush which I used frequently until it mysteriously disappeared from my desk one day. I found it in the kitty litter box. I'm not sure why my husband or my 5 year old put it there but I'm sure they had a really good reason.

Needless to say, I do not have a really nice professional, expensive drafting brush anymore.

PVC erasers do require care-

Dingy PVC Eraser | VanillaArts.com

White erasers tend to hold on to the graphite or colored pencil that you have erased. This is a problem because you can accidentally transfer color to other areas of your art.

This is what graphite buildup looks like. It also holds on to Prismacolor especially well.

Cleaning it is simple- no special tools required.

Rub the eraser clean on your pants. Jeans work best but here I am wearing a pair of khaki pants. It won't transfer to material, your pants are completely safe.

If you're not brave enough to use your pants (or maybe you're not wearing any...) find a washcloth or keep a scrap piece of fabric in your art supply box.

Get into the habit of always cleaning it off before use. That prevents the oopsies.

Cleaning a PVC Eraser | VanillaArts.com
A Cleaned PVC Eraser | VanillaArts.com

And by the way, I never clean mine off this well, a couple swipes to clear the area I intend to use is usually what I do. In fact the original dirty photo (blue background) is exactly how it normally looks, I swipe off the end before using, I never clean off the whole darned thing unless I'm taking a photo of it for the website.

White erasers- an all around, gentle tool that I use daily. Consider adding it to your tool box today.